Not too long ago, I made a trip to Houston. I drove near The Galleria, a favorite shopping place for our family during the holidays. Each year we go window-shopping for a few hours. Sometimes we make a purchase or two and then go out to eat. Afterward, we look at Christmas lights. It’s been a fun, family tradition. As I thought about whether we’d be able to pull it off this year (our kids are young adults now, and not always available), I had that familiar “Christmas feeling” overtake my heart. It surprised me because Christmas was still over two months away. But it got me thinking.
What is that “Christmas feeling” anyway?
For children, the Christmas feeling is a part of growing up. But as we mature, sometimes (dare I say many times?) we find ourselves searching for that Christmas feeling. We don’t feel it at all. And want to—desperately. So, we try to capture it in many ways.
We pull out our Christmas decorations—the more the merrier! Christmas trees in every room! (I’m not knocking this. I don’t put up a lot of trees, but nativity scenes grace every available space in my house!)
We join the fray of Christmas shoppers and add our favorite Christmas music to our playlists. Holiday festivities feature foods we save for special occasions. We may even go to the cinema to catch the latest Christmas blockbuster.
As wonderful as all these are, they don’t fill us with what we’re looking for.
Searching for that Christmas feeling and coming up empty can leave us despondent and desperate, not to mention—exhausted!
Let’s look at that first Christmas night. I think Israel may have had similar feelings.
The First Christmas Night
We don’t know the exact date of Christ’s birth, but some things are certain.
Other than the angels who appeared to Zechariah, Mary, and Joseph, it had been 400 years since anyone had heard from God. All prophecy had come to a standstill.
After Judah’s captivity, they enjoyed periods of relative liberty. But mostly, they remained under oppressive rule. It was a dark time in their history (Isaiah 9:2).
They rebuilt the temple, but it was desecrated by the Romans. Finally Herod renovated it, but the glory of God did not dwell there. Can you imagine what that must have been like? Hearing all the stories of the beauty of the Temple. The cloud of God’s presence suspended above the Holy of Holies. Yet in their lifetime, it was only a story. They had never witnessed it.
The Old Testament closes with Malachi. Israel was left with silence. Yet the promise remained. God would send a Messiah who would set them free from the oppression they lived under.
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)
But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times. (Micah 5:2)
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners… (Isaiah 61:1-5)
With that promise in mind, generations of young girls wondered, “Am I the one who will bring the Messiah into the world?” Although Israel lived under oppression, they also lived with expectation. In anticipation of God’s promise. There’s a word for that.
It’s a beautiful word. When we hope for something, we have a sense that we’ll receive it. We don’t hope for something we don’t think we’ll receive.
I think that’s what the “Christmas feeling” is all about. As children, we hope Santa brings us our Weenie Whistle, Mystery Date game, or our beloved baby doll. OK, maybe I’ve watched “The Santa Claus” movies a few too many times. But we expect something good! Whatever it is, we look forward to it. We hope for it.
For me, it’s that we (my husband, 3 adult children, and I) will share at least one day or one evening prior to Christmas morning, enjoying some family traditions. It’s one thing I hope for.
The latest gadgets, new clothes, shoes, or handbags (even if they are wrapped in shiny paper) do not satisfy our hope-filled longings. Time with loved ones goes a long way to reaching those tender spots in our hearts. But even they cannot fill us to the measure God wants us to experience. He never designed them to.
God wants us to experience a fully satisfying life, not just during Christmas, but every day, through our relationship with Him.
Jesus Came to Give Us Life
Jesus entered the darkness of our world so we could live in His light. So we could experience a full and meaningful life. He told the people,
I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. (John 8:12)
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10)
As the light of life, Jesus releases us from the oppression of sin and darkness. He fills our hearts with Himself. We live free and filled.As the light of life, Jesus releases us from the oppression of sin and darkness. He fills our hearts with Himself. We live free and filled.
The word for full means over and above, more than enough, even “super abundant.” Imagine holding your glass out for someone to fill it with water. Usually, your server stops just shy of the top of your glass. But this time, your server keeps pouring the water, so it spills onto your hand. And not just your hand, but all over your clothes and onto the floor. In fact, imagine that your server pours the entire pitcher into your space. Even that doesn’t come close to describing the fullness of the life Jesus came to give us.
How to Find that Christmas Feeling
When we find ourselves searching for that Christmas feeling, we have but one place to look.
The Babe in the manger.
I don’t mean staring at the baby in a nativity scene, although I dearly love that.
I mean fixing our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfector of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). Think about who He is, all He has done for us, and what His plans are for our future.
Jesus came with a specific purpose in mind. To show His love to you. To redeem your life. No matter what else is going on the world, either personally or globally, we know these things to be true:
- Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)
- Jesus is the mediator between us and God. Through Him we experience peace with God and peace with others. (2 Corinthians 5:18; 1 Timothy 2:5-6)
- Jesus is the fullness of God in bodily form. (Colossians 2:9) Think about that. The fullness of God. Everything God is, Jesus embodied physically. Humans actually saw, touched, hugged, ate with, lived with—God.
- All of God’s promises are fulfilled in Christ Jesus. (2 Corinthians 1:20)
- Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. (John 20:31)
When we know Christ as Savior, we know these things to be true:
- Jesus Christ lives in us! (2 Corinthians 13:5)
- Jesus Christ is our righteousness, holiness, and redemption. (1 Corinthians 1:30)
- We are a new creation in Christ Jesus. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
- We have eternal life through Jesus Christ. (John 14:6; Romans 6:23)
Jesus Is Our Hope: The Real Christmas Feeling
And when we’re running low on hope, we can remember these things:
- Our hope in Jesus Christ is an anchor for the soul, firm, and secure. (Hebrews 6:19)
- God continues His work in our lives. (Philippians 1:6)
- God’s hope does not disappoint us, because He fills our hearts with His love. (Romans 5:5)
- The right perspective helps us focus on what’s eternal instead of what is temporary. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)
I love the few weeks a year that Christmas lights and nativity scenes bring warmth to my home. But if I look to these things to meet the needs in my heart, I will be disappointed.
Israel lived in expectation of God’s promised Messiah. We live in the reality of that promise fulfilled.
Like Israel, we, too, can live in expectation of God’s promises to us. And there are many! Jesus will return for His church, and we will spend eternity with Him and all those who have gone before us.
Because Jesus came as a baby, lived a perfect, human life, and paid the ransom for our sin, we have Christ in us, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27). That hope is the real Christmas feeling. The reason Jesus was born that night so long ago.
What else do you know to be true of Jesus? How does knowing that He is our hope affect your outlook this Christmas? I’d love to hear from you!Christ in you, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27), is the real Christmas feeling. The reason Jesus was born that night so long ago.
If you have never given your life to Christ, you can meet Him right now on this page. If you have questions, please email me. Knowing your future hope with Christ can make this the best Christmas ever!
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